In Ohio, every county has a court of common pleas. The Ohio courts of common pleas have the authority to hear cases where the amount in controversy exceeds $500. For this reason, the majority of Ohio car accident and personal injury cases are filed in common pleas court. There is no upper limit on the amount in controversy requirement, meaning that a common pleas court can even hear cases with billions of dollars at stake.
Even though the courts of common pleas have the authority to handle very high value cases, the Ohio Rules of Civil Procedure place constraints on the amount of money that a plaintiff is explicitly able to ask for in the complaint. Ohio Civil Rule 8(A) is entitled “Claims for relief” and states in part:
“A pleading that sets forth a claim for relief, whether an original claim, counterclaim, cross-claim, or third-party claim, shall contain (1) a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the party is entitled to relief, and (2) a demand for judgment for the relief to which the party claims to be entitled. If the party seeks more than twenty-five thousand dollars, the party shall so state in the pleading but shall not specify in the demand for judgment the amount of recovery sought, unless the claim is based upon an instrument required to be attached pursuant to Civ. R. 10.”
Therefore, even if an Ohio plaintiff has incurred hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses, the plaintiff is only permitted in the complaint to state that he or she is seeking an amount “in excess of twenty-five thousand dollars.” This is often distressing for seriously injured plaintiffs who read a copy of the complaint that their lawyer filed and then wonder why their lawyer didn’t ask for more than $25,000.00.
Ohio plaintiff’s lawyers often receive phone calls from concerned or angry clients demanding to know why the lawyer did not explicitly ask for a much larger number in the complaint. The simple answer is that Rule 8(A) forbids lawyers from doing so. If a lawyer were to explicitly ask for, say, $100,000 in the complaint, the lawyer and the client would appear incompetent, would upset the judge, and would potentially be subject to adverse sanctions.
The reason for the $25,000 request restriction is that some lawyers used to abuse the process and plead in the complaint that their client was entitled to trillions of dollars on fender bender sprain/strain cases. This did nothing but scare defendants, hinder negotiations, and make everyone look unreasonable. Hence, the enactment of Rule 8(A).
It is important to note that just because a plaintiff cannot explicitly state an amount higher than $25,000.00 in the complaint does not mean that a client will not end up with an amount much higher than $25,000.00. Our office routinely files cases where the complaint asks for “an amount in excess of twenty-five thousand dollars” and the case is later settled or tried to a verdict for hundreds of thousands of dollars or more.
In sum, there is no reason to become alarmed or upset when you see that your attorney has drafted a compliant asking for “an amount in excess of twenty-five thousand dollars.” The law requires an attorney to do this, even on million dollar cases, and it has no effect on the amount that the case will ultimately settle for.
If you have questions about this topic or any legal topic, feel free to contact the Ohio attorneys at the Charles E. Boyk Law Offices, LLC at 419-241-1395 or toll free at 1-800-637-8170. We offer free consultations and we are happy to assist you with any legal need that you may have.